BRUSSELS, Wis. – Dan Vandertie says he likes building cow families. That has included “excellent” members of his herd’s families, such as Doorco Buckeye Hailey. Now 12 years old, “Hailey” was classified in 2019 as Excellent-94-4E by Holstein Association USA. She’s a daughter of Doorco Machoman Heather, which was classified by the Holstein association in 2004 as Excellent-91-2E. She also was a Gold Medal Dam. “Heather” is a daughter of Doorco Rubens August, which was classified in 2000 as an Excellent-92-4E. She was a Gold Medal Dam and Dam of Merit.
Vandertie and his wife, Julie Vandertie, currently own and care for 32 Registered Holsteins. Their rolling herd average is 32,310 pounds of milk averaging 4.05 percent fat and 3.13 percent protein.
The couple purchased in 1987 the dairy farm from his parents, Wilferd and Emily Vandertie. The elder Vanderties had farmed for 46 years, and were members of local, state and national Holstein associations. Dan and Julie Vandertie have continued the family’s Holstein-breeding legacy. Vandertie’s Doorco Holsteins has been honored 44 years by Holstein Association USA’s Progressive Breeders’ Registry.
To qualify for the registry recognition a herd owner must be a member of both his or her national and state Holstein associations. The owner also must be enrolled in Holstein Association USA’s Deluxe TriStar or Premier TriStar options and herd-classification programs. TriStar is the association’s program for administering production records, cow- and herd-genetic-performance reports, and recognition.
The owner’s breed-age average for herd classification must be in the top 25 percent of herds classified during the 18-month period prior to March 1 of the current calendar year, according to Holstein Association USA.
The herd owner also must have a minimum of twenty 87-percent rolling herd average and greater cows in the milking herd. And at least 75 percent of the cows must bear the herd owner's prefix.
The Vanderties maintain a 100-percent homebred herd. Their herd had a breed-age average value of 111.2, and average milk production of 32,967 pounds with 1,255 pounds of fat and 1,009 pounds of protein, according to Holstein Association USA’s “2018 Progressive Breeders Registry.”
Vandertie’s Doorco Holsteins also earned in 2010, 2012 and 2017 the association’s Herd of Excellence for the 10- to 99-cow herd-size division. The herd in 2017 produced 34,194 pounds of milk, with 1,322 pounds of fat and 1,042 pounds of protein.
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Holstein Association USA’s Herd of Excellence program was launched in 2008 and honors Registered Holstein breeders who have developed herds that excel in both production and type. Herds with 10 to 99 cows must achieve at least 25 percent more than the breed average mature equivalent for milk, fat and protein.
Vandertie’s Doorco Holsteins also has been recognized by the association 14 times as a Progressive Genetics Herd. Qualifications are similar to the Progressive Breeder’s Registry. To qualify for a Progressive Genetics Herd award the owner must have a minimum of twenty 87 percent rolling herd average and greater cows in the milking herd. The cows also must have official classification scores and production information, which figures into the index calculation for each animal. The Progressive Genetics Herd recognition is awarded to the 500 herds with the greatest average total-performance index for females in the herd, both young and mature.
In addition to evaluating pedigrees Vandertie selects cows with wide fronts. Those types of animals look like they can consume greater amounts of feed, he said.
“I look for cows whose front legs I could put a wheelbarrow through,” he said with a smile.
He also studies Holstein Association USA’s Red Book to select bulls he thinks would work best for the herd. He doesn’t rely on genomics alone. Genomics are a tool, but not the only tool available to breeders, he said.
Contributing to herd performance are good feed and cow comfort, he said. The Vanderties grow all of their own corn, alfalfa and soybeans for feed. And they provide mattresses for cow comfort. Cows are allowed to graze during daytime hours in spring and fall, and are housed in the barn at night. In summer they’re outside during nighttime hours and in winter they’re housed mainly in the barn.
Doing the “big things” right and the “little things” right consistently are keys to achieving Herd of Excellence status, Vandertie said.